I loved Gumby as a child in the 1970s, and can still remember going to the toy store with my mother to buy a "replacement Gumby" when mine would invariably wear out. The bendable 6 inch character was created in the 1950s by Art Clokey, and had his own television show, toy figure, and board game. In 1965, a series of costumes were released for Gumby, which allowed him to take on various exciting personas: knight, astronaut, cowboy, etc. Recently I found a few, and my latest Gumby has been trying them out.
Gumbynaut makes radio contact from deep space:
Police officer Gumby holds back the rampaging robots:
Hurry, hurry, step right up and see my latest find: a huge lot of antique carnival items! Most of the pieces are from the 1930s, and have seen heavy use in traveling carnivals. With their handmade nature and patina of age, they have a folk art quality that is very appealing.
First up: this hand lettered wooden sign for a coin toss game,
5 feet long:
Here's a closeup of the hand lettering,
a fascinating art form:
And, if you look closely at the "5", you can see where the old price of "10" cents was painted over, I'm guessing during the Depression years.
One of the most unusual pieces in the lot was this gigantic wooden sledgehammer, almost 3 feet tall, with a head a foot wide. The bands around the head are thick steel. It was used in the classic carnival High Striker, or bell ringing game, in which a fair goer would attempt to ring a bell at the top of a tall platform by hitting the base. This hammer is so heavy, I have no idea how anyone would have managed to swing it. I had to drag it up my stairs, stopping for a rest along the way...
One of the most interesting finds was another classic game, the milk bottle knock-down. The 7 inch wooden milk bottles were heavily dinged and scraped from decades of use. The game came with a basket full of its original, accompanying baseballs.
The goal was to knock the 3 bottles over with a tossed ball. It sounds simple, but in actuality, it hardly ever happened. Turning over the bottles reveals why: one has been hollowed out, and a lead weight inserted. The hole was then plugged, and the weight made it very difficult to knock over. In the photo below, the gaffed bottle is on the top of the pile.
Some of my favorite items in the find were an assortment of 3 carnival punks, or knock down dolls. In a game similar to the milk bottles, customers tried to knock the punks over to win a prize. The most common form of punk was a clown with a crazy halo of hair, which was made of wool in the earliest examples, like these 11 inch varieties:
The other punk was very unusual; I've never seen one quite like it. Measuring a very large 21 inches tall, it features a hand painted cat on green canvas, with the word "Lux" prominently spelled out, and yellow tassled fringe adorning the sides. It's a little spooky...
Another big sign, a bit more recent than the first and not as skillfully painted, was this 10 cent candy advertisement:
From a selection of shooting gallery targets, I chose this cast iron duck, 5 1/2 inches wide. Like the hammer shown previously, this target is so heavy, I don't see how it could ever have been successfully struck. Its age, wear, and weathering have given it a wonderful primitive charm.
Also from a shooting gallery came this double squirrel target, made of wood, cast iron, and steel, measuring 7 inches tall by 10 inches wide. It would originally have been one small segment in a wide shooting range composed of many similar pieces. After knocking the squirrels over, a hit on the center white circle target makes them pop back up again.
Here's a closeup of the squirrels, 2 inches tall:
This last item is a bit more recent than the others, probably from the 1950s. It's another great hand lettered sign, 16 inches wide, most likely from a ticket booth.
It's an incredible feeling to hold these items and imagine the places they've been and the people they've seen...I can almost smell the cotton candy and hear the screams of riders on the roller coaster.
Dollhouse grocery shops are some of my favorite miniatures to collect. The tiny accessories (cans, boxes, packages, fruits, veggies, cheeses) are fun to find and stock the shelves with. This particular shop has a more limited product range, and it's one that will definitely not appeal to vegetarian readers.
The Playtown Meat Market was made in the 1940s -50s by Playtown Products Co. of New York. Playtown sold a whole range of these little shops, averaging 7 inches tall, including a bakery, general store, grocery shop, supermarket, and a fabulous luncheonette. (Click here to visit a great website featuring many of the Playtown Shops.)
The shops came filled with tiny items.
This one still has most of its original stock,
plaster meats housed behind sliding doors.
The market is just the right size for the contemporary Flagg Family Dollhouse Dolls, who are stocking up their freezer.
Antique dollhouse grocery shops are some of my favorite things to collect. Most were made in Germany, from the mid 1800s all the way through the 1960s. Here are a few accessory pieces I found recently to restock my shelves.
Miniature canned goods (milk, coffee, and sausages): tin cans with paper labels, made in Germany circa the 1930s, 1 1/2 inches tall.
Tiny cheeses: cardboard, composition, and glass. Dish is 1 1/4 inches in diameter, circa 1930s.
Rooting around in a box full of manky 1990s Barbies a few weeks ago, I found this treasure: a vintage Charlie's Angels doll, made by Hasbro in 1977, in its complete original outfit, and priced at just $5.99! This particular Angel is Kelly, originally played in the TV show by Jaclyn Smith, and the likeness is quite remarkable, I think (although I don't expect Jaclyn's head was quite this disproportionately large in real life...)
When I got her home, a happy discovery was made: she's just about the same scale as my vintage Mego Batman doll!
Batman was clearly happy about it, too: he's callously tossed Robin aside for Kelly. Poor Robin...I hope those menacing robots don't get him. He may be okay, though, as they appear to be looking the other way.
This very strange German made Easter postcard from the 1900s features all the holiday sights one would expect (chicks, colored eggs), but also a little boy chef who is smoking a cigar while balancing a tray with an apparently live chicken on his head. I do not know why. Perhaps this is some little known European spring time custom, or perhaps the German Easter Bunny also brings stogies.
One of the oddest board games ever made must be Pinhead, released by Remco in 1959.
The first inkling of strangeness comes right away, as you peruse the cover. Why is a "game of hide and seek" called "Pinhead"? What does a deforming neurodevelopmental disorder have to do with a classic children's playtime activity? Why is the one boy so much bigger than the other children? Is it also about dwarfism and/or gigantism?
You might expect some answers to these baffling questions once you open the box, but no: the oddness just intensifies. There is, in fact, a pinhead on the house shaped game board, and he is "hiding" out in the open, in the middle of what appears to be a hallway. So...not hiding, then. I mean, wouldn't it have been more like hiding if he was tucked away in the attic clutter, or stuck behind one of the basement appliances??
The pinhead in question:
Remco games were notable for: 1. being strange, and 2. having unusual methods of rolling the dice. Remco's "Tumblebum Dice Games" included an hourglass shaped device with dice inside. Tipping the device over essentially rolled the dice. Pinhead features a different mechanism: a dice box, in which the dice are shaken while the lid is closed. These elaborate dice rolling devices seem to have been Remco's attempt to enliven games that were otherwise rather simple, straightforward "tracks", wherein players simply moved their markers along a course. Remco games are relatively scarce, and strange though they may be, are worth snapping up when found.
The first antique show of the season arrived this past weekend with the stormy spring weather. I gathered up my pocket change and went to see what treasures I could find. My budget was very limited this time, due to an upcoming vacation, so I tried to look only at very small things. Fortunately, there were a lot of very small things! I found:
Some antique dollhouse "tobacco felt" rugs. These 5 inch rugs were given away as premiums with cigarettes and cigars in the early 1900s. In the same booth, I also got a nice old dollhouse plate rack, complete with its plates.
Next, I got a bunch of dollhouse grocery items, all made of wood with paper labels. The largest can is 1 1/4 inches tall, and they all date from the 1920s-30s.
Pigs in Clover, an absolutely impossible hand-held dexterity puzzle from the 1950s, was next:
And my favorite find of all was a little vintage 1960s troll, 3 1/2 inches high, wearing his original outfit and shoes, with very unusual rooted, variegated hair: